Is kombucha alcoholic?
There’s a lot of debate about whether or not kombucha contains trace amounts of alcohol.
Alcohol is a potential byproduct of the fermentation process (this is what makes wine and beer alcoholic). So yes, since kombucha is a fermented food, there is the potential for alcohol to be present in certain types of kombucha.
The longer the kombucha ferments, the more potential it has to contain/increase those trace amounts of alcohol. But just because it has the potential to do that, doesn’t mean it actually happens. It depends on many factors (including the brewer’s unique SCOBY, ingredients and environment). Some kombucha cultures (SCOBYs) produce little to no alcohol at all, no matter how long you ferment with it. And some SCOBYs with specific alcohol-producing yeasts may be more prone to producing alcohol.
So recovering alcoholics, pregnant/nursing women, children and anyone who needs to avoid trace amounts of alcohol should be aware of this and make their own personal decisions on what to consume.
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It’s really difficult for homebrewed kombucha to ever exceed 2% alcohol by volume (ABV) and that’s on the high-end — say if you’ve accidentally left an airtight bottle fermenting in a hot car for about a month. But honestly at that point, the kombucha will likely be too vinegar-y and too fizzy to even be drinkable. And you’d have to drink about 10 bottles of the stuff to even feel a slight buzz.
For what it’s worth, kombucha is considered halal by the Muslim faith, which prohibits alcohol consumption.
What about all these sites that accuse kombucha of being alcoholic?
You’ll find a lot of “articles” from people who claim that kombucha is alcoholic and that’s why people feel so good after they drink it. A lot of those “articles” seem to be written from a biased point of view. They love to talk about how weird the kombucha SCOBY looks, they ignore science about fermented foods and they like to patronize or poke fun at health benefits that real people actually feel.
I don’t know about you, but drinking beer or wine or any other type of alcohol has never helped with my digestion, energy levels or helped my skin feel healthy. If anything, it’s always done the complete opposite. And if you’re looking guzzle kombucha to get drunk, you’d have a hard time doing it. There are quite a number of other beverages out there that are much more efficient at getting you sauced.
A whole lot of bloggers have been jumping on the trash-kombucha bandwagon. To this, I’d recommend that you take everything you read online with a grain of salt (yes, I’m including my website in this). A lot of supposedly credible online “news” sources love click-bait headlines and ill-researched contrarian viewpoints just to stir the pot and gain page views.
I’ve just found so much misinformation about kombucha out there written by people who dislike kombucha (they openly say they don’t like its vinegary acidity) and who have never made kombucha — and one of their biggest arguments against kombucha is its potential alcohol content. It’s like their go-to straw man argument. They say, “Kombucha could have trace amounts of alcohol, so there’s no way it’s healthy for you!” It’s a logical fallacy based on a clear lack of understanding of the drink itself and the process through which kombucha is made.
So I felt the need to voice an opinion from a seasoned home brewer who has been drinking kombucha for years and sharing her homemade kombucha with friends and family with absolutely no problems.
My stance on kombucha is that like all other foods, it affects us all in a unique way. So no one should pressure you to drink or not drink it. It’s ultimately up to you to do the research, decide what to believe and choose what’s right for your own body. You can read my full opinion on the "kombucha healthiness debate" here, but I honestly think it's just a drink. Drink it if you like. Don't drink it if you don't.
Is there a way to measure home-brewed kombucha’s ABV?
I haven’t yet found a cheap, easy way to measure the ABV in my home brewed kombucha. Hydrometers (used to measure specific gravity and calculate ABV in beer) do not work for kombucha because the acid levels throw off the meter’s accuracy. The other alternative would be to ship a sample of my kombucha off to a lab to have it professionally tested for ABV. This is expensive and not really effective because potential ABV could vary from batch to batch and even bottle to bottle, depending on the yeasts present in that particular batch, in that particular bottle.
Yeasts are easily affected by a number of factors — environment, temperature, ingredients, fermentation time… the list goes on. But ultimately, kombucha is a live, raw, real, living thing. And if you find that the pros outweigh the potential cons or risks, then you should do what you feel is best for you.
I have to put this disclaimer here because this is the internet and people like to nitpick, but we make no medical claims about kombucha. If you have any concerns or questions about your health, you should always consult with a physician or other healthcare professional.